Exclusive By Victoria Ashford
RESEARCH into big cats seen prowling the countryside has been put together in a book to help unveil the mysteries behind the sightings.
Big Cats: Loose in Britain is an in-depth study spanning two decades, written by Marcus Matthew, of Crockerton, near Warminster.
The 368-page book takes a historical look at the wild predators throughout the 1970s and 1980s including accounts of the Beast of Exmoor’ and various tales around Wiltshire.
Mr Matthews, 34, who is a freelance journalist as well as author, said: “There are definitely some big cats out there.
“They live off deer and game birds and from time to time they do kill sheep.
“It mainly came about when big cats were released in 1976 following the introduction of the Dangerous Animals Act, which meant they couldn’t be kept as pets.”
Mr Matthews, who works at Frome Tourist Office, wrote the book as a teenager using accounts from thousands of witnesses, as well as newspaper cuttings, to complete the large volume of research.
In addition, Mr Matthews went out in search of the beasts taking pictures, examining footprints and looking at animal kills to complete the picture.
The publishers CFZ Press have said it is the largest book ever written on the subject.
Now Mr Matthews intends to continue his research by creating a 50-page booklet focusing on big cats specifically in the Wiltshire area.
He said: “It’s a hobby really. I like big cats. I am trying to follow it up with the Big Cats in Britain research group where I will be focussing on the Wiltshire area.
“I am interested in any local sightings that people have to help with the book.”
10:13am Thursday 2nd August 2007